TIFTON -- Chris Sandy was 22 years old in April 2000 when he got drunk and drove 70 miles per hour down a county road outside Atlanta in Newton County. Sandy will share his story at 10 a.m. March 24 in the Cordell Conference Room on the ABAC campus. People of all ages are invited to attend.
The other driver was attempting to make a turn into a private driveway when Sandy slammed his vehicle into the car so hard that it cut it in half. Two people in the other vehicle were killed.
Before the crash, Sandy had a good job. He enjoyed playing basketball and fishing and he liked hanging out with his buddies. That life came to an end when he decided to go to a party, get drunk and take the life-changing drive.
Sandy was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and DUI. He was convicted on all counts and is currently serving a 13-year sentence in a Georgia state prison. Since Jan. 22, for a few hours each month, Sandy is escorted in shackles and handcuffs by law enforcement personnel to share his story with Georgia students. He's spoken to 20 groups so far.
Chad Foster, author of "Teenagers Preparing for the Real World," organizes Sandy's speaking engagements for the Georgia Department of Corrections. Sandy's scheduled to give another 35 presentations between now and June.
Foster said Sandy had no public speaking experience before Jan. 22.
"He is really a gifted speaker and I think it is because this is so important and he is so committed," said Foster. "Lives and behaviors change when people hear him.
"Kids come out saying they know they will never drink and drive again. The adults benefit as well as the students."
Foster said Sandy's program was piloted for the Department of Corrections. The Governor's Office of Highway Safety is a strong supporter.
"I have found the Department of Corrections to be some of the finest, most concerned people I have dealt with," Foster said. "It took a very progressive department to give the program a try."
Foster said Sandy has a strong family support system. His mother and father visit him regularly at the prison.
"His mother visits every weekend," Foster said. "I think she has missed four weekends in three years. The family support is an important part of his existence."
"We all know the messages, 'Don't Drink and Drive,' 'Just Say No to Drugs,' 'Don't let your friends drive drunk,' but when they are delivered by the right messenger, kids pay attention. Chris is the right messenger," Foster said.
To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.
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